Analog (human) shoppers at the mall (“physical retail”).

What Do You Call the Opposite of Online Sales?

Amazon has marched into every arena of commerce, building moat after moat — logistical, financial, customer service — to keep its rivals from catching up. It expanded into selling its own wares, into physical retail, entertainment and into all manner of home monitoring devices. And it has its Sauron-like eye aimed relentlessly on a whole lot more than that.”

–Kara Swisher, “As Jeff Bezos Takes Off, Meet His Earthbound Successor”; The NYT (2/3/2021).

Once upon a time — like 20 years ago — “physical retail” was just . . . “retail.”

As in, “I’m going to the mall this weekend to buy a new pair of jeans.”

Fast forward two decades.

Now, the juggernaut known as “Amazon” has expanded into so many lines of business, both online and off, that we need a new term for old-fashioned, in-person sales to distinguish them from the Internet-based, virtual kind.

2009-2013 Housing Market 

Housing market veterans (I qualify) will recall that something similar happened to residential real estate in the wake of The 2008 Crash.

Namely, foreclosures became so dominant that Realtors needed a term for transactions that didn’t involve banks (“lender-mediated”), including underwater properties where the banks effectively wielded a veto (known as “short sales”).

Hence, the term “traditional sale” was born — and quietly retired 6-8 years ago, when the housing market’s current bull run began.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite Mad Magazine cartoons, which shows a food stand advertising every kind of burger known to man: “Buffalo burgers,” “Chicken burgers,” “Turkey burgers,” “Veggie burgers,” and on and on.

The caption: “We have some with ham, too, but we don’t know what to call them.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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